Today, the Center announced that Vanishing Black Bars & Lounges and I came by Boat so Meet me at the Beach are now available for anyone to view online. The announcement comes a month after the Center closed its galleries effective March 14. The tour gives viewers a chance to see the shows, both of which were scheduled to close on March 29.
A press release says that, as one of the few places in the country dedicated to exclusively showcasing the African-American experience and the arts of the
African diaspora, the Center wanted to still provide "an online, artist-narrated walk-through of the exhibitions that can be accessed, for free, around the globe.” The tours also include commentary from the artists as they explain their process and the mission behind their work.
“These virtual tours get to the core of our mission to champion innovative young artists by offering them continued support and exposure, even at this time of social distancing,” says Janis Burley Wilson, the Center's CEO and president. “The tour also serves as a cultural outlet for our patrons and, of course, provides access to a much larger constituency than can walk through our doors in Pittsburgh.”
Vanishing Black Bars & Lounges is the first major solo exhibition for L. Kasimu Harris, a New Orleans-based photographer documenting the loss of Black-owned social spaces in his hometown. (He describes his journey, which began in January 2018, in an illuminating photo essay he wrote for the New York Times earlier this year.) The photographs capture the rich culture and traditions associated with Black-owned bars and social clubs in New Orleans, even as they are quickly coming under white ownership.
“The works of L. Kasimu Harris, Ayana M. Evans, and Tsedaye Makonnen address both universal truths and specific issues in the Black community,” says Burley Wilson, adding that the exhibitions pose questions that “call to mind the same challenges” that the Center’s namesake, celebrated Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson, confronted in his plays.
Besides the virtual gallery tours, the Center also plans on introducing several other digital programs. Starting April 27, on what would have been August Wilson’s 75th birthday, the Center's Facebook page will host Last Mondays, a monthly steaming conversation series between artists, actors, writers, and scholars. The first installment will feature actors Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Nathan James, poet jessica Care moore, and August Wilson scholar Dr. Sandra Shannon in a conversation with artist Deesha Philyaw.